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Senior players are letting the side down

Posted on | June 2, 2015 | 3 Comments

We are on a real roller-coaster ride with this England team. They raised our hopes at Lord’s but let us down at Headingley. With some young, fairly inexperienced players in the team performances will vary but England are being let down by some experienced guys with bat and ball.

Ian Bell’s confidence and form is at a low ebb after 55 in eight innings. If he had been dismissed every time by a great ball then there would be no problem but that is not the case.

Mentally he is not thinking straight. In the first innings at Headingley Tim Southee bowled him some big outswingers around off stump, teasing him to drive. He let a couple go but then could not resist a push drive and was caught at slip. It was naive and a sucker’s dismissal. It was not smart because he had done the same thing at Lord’s to the same bowler in the second innings.

Then as England were trying to save the match here he played an orthodox off-spinner to leg slip off the middle of his bat. If the ball had jumped or spat at him, or spun alarmingly, then you could forgive the dismissal. But you cannot get out to a regulation delivery that is there to be tucked away.

Bell lacks confidence and apparently he is a player who needs constant reassurance. There is no technical problem. He is a beautiful batsman with plenty of shots but it is about having a cricket brain that thinks well and works out when to attack or defend. After more than 100 Tests he should be self-assured and giving advice to the younger players, not needing that reassurance himself.

Gary Ballance is a young player making his way in the game and after so much success last year Test cricket has given him a big kick up the backside just when he thought he had worked it out. His recent problems are caused by going so far back before the bowler delivers the ball that he cannot get forward to full-length deliveries. His weight is planted on his back foot and he cannot transfer that weight forward so that, when the ball is pitched up, his front foot hardly gets in front of the batting crease.

Last year bowlers did not know much about his technique but they have studied him and worked him out. Anything short he punches and steers square of the wicket – he is comfortable off his legs and hip. But now bowlers are pitching it up further and making it more difficult.

At Lord’s in the first Test he pushed-drove a half-volley with his weight back and was caught at gully. He was bowled three times by New Zealand with very full-length, swinging deliveries. He now needs to play for Yorkshire, get some runs and work on his weight transference from front foot to back foot.

Ballance and Bell will be picked for the first Test in Cardiff mainly because there is nobody else crying out to be selected apart from Kevin Pietersen. The other names being bandied around do not stand out as Test material. They may get a chance later in the series. But you cannot honestly say they are any better or will succeed.

Stuart Broad is an experienced bowler but our bowling at the tailenders was awful. The tactic and length of trying to bounce out nine, 10 and jack was pathetic. Guys who are not good batsmen knew where the ball was going to be aimed so they sat on the back foot, ready to have a whack at the short ball like a baseball hitter. Ball after ball was telegraphed. There was no subtlety, no slower ball or yorker. Just Plan A and nothing else.

Whoever dreamed it up, bowler or captain, has to take the blame but once it was not working the captain should have insisted on changing the tactic. Ultimately Alastair Cook runs the show and it is his responsibility.

Why not bowl length, with the long off and long on back? Then if they hit good balls over the top there is a chance of being caught. When the bowlers bowled length they had no protection because mid on and mid off were up.

 

I get the impression that the two senior bowlers, Broad and James Anderson, can do whatever they want. That cannot be right. The captain has to dictate tactics. For example, as soon as Broad gets hit for a boundary he signals he wants a slip taken out and moved to where the ball went. Our captain lets him do it even when he has bowled a bad ball and every cricketer knows you should never set fields for bad bowling.

The last time Australia came to England, we were happy with slow pitches that turned because Graeme Swann could then be a big factor. That is not going to happen in the Ashes this time because Moeen Ali is a batsman who can bowl a bit and not a front-line spinner. Australia targeted Swann in Australia and they will do the same to Moeen.

Australia have plenty of right-handers who can hit with the spin and, if he gets tonked, we have a serious problem. Australia’s off‑spinner, Nathan Lyon, will look forward to bowling at England because we have seven left-handers in the team which means there will be lots of rough outside off stump for him to exploit.

Finally, our slip fielding has to improve. There were too many dropped catches at Headingley. England have no chance against Australia if, in every innings, our bowlers have to create 13 or 14 chances to get 10 wickets.

 

 

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